Uric acid is a normal waste product that can be found in your bloodstream – but when kidneys aren’t functioning well and there’s more uric acid in the bloodstream than the kidneys can get rid of, a condition called hyperuricemia (high uric acid in the blood) can occur. This buildup of uric acid (and elevated UA levels) can cause gout and painful crystals to form around the joints.
When kidneys aren’t functioning well, it gets tricky to treat gout in kidney disease patients, so close monitoring by a doctor – a rheumatologist or nephrologist – is vitally important. Medications – like probenecid –that help to eliminate uric acid through the kidneys are not effective, and NSAID use for pain is difficult because these drugs can injure the kidneys.
Those who have gout are more likely to get kidney disease.
Likewise, those who have kidney disease are more likely to suffer from gout and elevated uric acid levels.
Kidney stones form when uric acid crystals deposit in the kidneys. They are very painful and – if left untreated – can block the urinary tract and result in infection. Research has shown that one in five people with gout will develop kidney stones.
Over time, kidney stones can lead to chronic kidney disease. For those who have kidney disease, it is more difficult for their kidneys to get rid of uric acid. Untreated kidney disease can ultimately lead to kidney failure or loss of kidney function.
Control Gout and Protect Your Kidneys
Maintaining a healthy serum uric acid level of 6.0 mg/dL or below is important to reduce the risk for gout and kidney disease. Ask your doctor for a routine serum uric acid blood test to see if you have elevated uric acid. The doctor can also run tests to measure your kidney function.
If your uric acid levels are high, your doctor may prescribe medications to keep uric acid levels low and reduce your risk for future gout flares. It is important to take these medications as prescribed – and not to stop them without talking with the doctor. It is also important to tell your doctor about all other medications and supplements you are taking, as some may be raising your uric acid levels.
Other steps – such as drinking plenty of water to flush the kidneys and help to remove uric acid from the bloodstream; exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight; and avoiding trigger foods – are also important for reducing risk.
To learn more about gout and kidney health, this brochure. Additional information about kidney health is available through the National Kidney Foundation at Kidney.org/atoz.